Synopsis: Following a 3-day jury trial, husband and wife chiropractors received a defense verdict, claiming their lease was unenforceable due to a change in Santa Rosa’s zoning laws. They also received an award of attorneys’ fees and costs in excess of $233,000.
Case Type: Landlord and Tenant – Breach of Lease; Breach of Contract; Zoning
Case Name: AFC Rosewood, LLC v. Hoang Nguyen and Anna Hoang
Case Number: SCV 242165
Trial Type: Jury
Trial Length: 3 days
Deliberations: 25 minutes
Verdict for: Defense
Attorney for Plaintiff: Timothy C. Cronin and Alan R. Johnston, The Cronin Law Group, San Francisco, CA
Attorney for Defense: Lewis R. Warren and Bryan D. Coryell, Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & Emery, Santa Rosa, CA
Court: Superior Court of California, Sonoma County
Judge: Gary Nadler
Facts and Allegations: In 2007, plaintiff AFC Rosewood, LLC, a company owned by the Alioto Fish Co., entered into a seven-year lease with Hoang Nguyen and Anna Hoang (the “Hoangs”) so that they could open a chiropractic office in the Rosewood Village shopping center. After making improvements to the location, the Hoangs were told by the City of Santa Rosa that recent amendments to its zoning laws prohibited the operation of a chiropractic office at Rosewood Village. As a result, they vacated the premises.
AFC Rosewood sued the Hoangs for breach of contract. It contended that the Hoangs breached the plain terms of the lease, and assumed the risk of any zoning issues. Plaintiff claimed that the defendants were liable for more than $120,000 in unpaid rent and common area maintenance charges.
The defense argued that all the parties thought that the shopping center could accommodate the chiropractic office when the lease was signed. Therefore, the lease was unenforceable based on the affirmative defenses of mutual mistake, illegality and impracticability.
Damages/Injuries: AFC Rosewood sought recovery of $120,000 in unpaid rent and common area maintenance charges. It also sought recovery of attorney’s fees and costs.
Result: The jury unanimously found for the defendants on all three of their affirmative defenses.
Settlement Negotiations: None Reported
Experts for Plaintiff: None
Experts for Defense: Jean Kapolchok, land use, Santa Rosa, CA
Post-Trial: Defense counsel filed a memorandum for costs and a motion for attorneys’ fees, and the Trial Court awarded in excess of $224,000 in fees and $9,000 in costs.